After almost two tumultuous years in Guyana, the USAID Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) Programme has concluded. Glenn Bradbury, Resident Country Director in Guyana for the Washington-based, International Republican Institute, will soon be departing.
To say Bradbury received less than favourable treatment from the former PPP/C regime would be an understatement. Last April, the then PPP/C government, embroiled in its feral hatred of all things American and especially former U.S. Ambassador Brent Hardt, demanded that the LEAD programme be shut down before the PPP/C would consent to entering in what would turn out to be a time-consuming three-month useless exercise with the US Embassy on the drafting of a new LEAD Programme – one that would ultimately remove the contentious programs and make it more acceptable to the PPP/C.
While having actually agreed to the Programme in its initial discussions with the Americans, it became clear from the outcome of the negotiations what was really bothering the PPP/C. The government did not want any program that risked creating a more cohesive and productive opposition.
This is even more evident when after the discussions on LEAD were concluded, the Program lost its ability to work with strengthening the capacities of political parties.
To force the US to the LEAD re-negotiating table, the PPP/C set its sights on Bradbury. They stripped him of his work permit, without any indication of what specific law he was in contravention of. The government then threatened to have him arrested if he did not immediately leave the country.
For several weeks, the then Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee indicated his displeasure via pro-government newspapers over why Bradbury was still in Guyana. At no point did the minister ever produce evidence of Bradbury’s high crimes and against the state. This was due to the fact that there were no violations of any Guyana laws, nor was there any stomping on the country’s sovereignty.
What was obvious was that the PPP/C did not have the moral, legal, or even intestinal fortitude to arrest Bradbury and carry out his forced departure – possibly because the government would lose its eviction order if the matter ever came before the counts.
The PPP/C stated on a few occasions that there were no laws in Guyana that actually applied to foreign democracy programmes working with political parties on trying to improve their capacity and to enhance the workings of the National Assembly. What is equally relevant is that LEAD never acted in secret. All political parties were invited to participate in the Programme and its activities – although by all accounts, the PPP/C never did.
Despite the ludicrous and fanciful accusations by the PPP/C, no evidence was ever provided of the LEAD giving any money to either APNU or AFC. There was no proof offered of some covert US plan to overthrow the PPP/C government.
It would seem that the government’s ramped-up hysteria focused on LEAD was more the product of an over-developed imagination and a long-standing paranoia that existed deep within the inner circles and psyche of the PPP/C leadership – fuelled by a growing hostility to a US Ambassador constantly harping on about why no local government elections were being called and Dr. Roger Luncheon’s personal inability to process the fact that the Cold War ended decades ago and that his side actually lost.
Regardless, the PPP/C announced that it would not enter into discussions with the Americans to re-design the LEAD Program unless it was put on hold. Once LEAD was shelved, and in an obvious ploy to defuse the negative publicity growing over the entire affair, the PPP/C, under the crafty guidance of its chief tactician and thespian, Dr. Luncheon, set about to “negotiate” the obtaining of a watered-down LEAD that was more to the government’s liking – gutted of its ability to build the capacity of the various political parties; have no chance of improving the Assembly’s performance, and never achieve anything close to obtaining consensus in the gridlocked National Assembly.
A politically-neutered LEAD Programme was left with working to empower women and youth and assist in the provision of voter education for local government elections that the government never intended to call unless it was absolutely certain that it would win most of them.
Fast forward to today. The PPP/C is no longer in power. Guyana has an opportunity with its new government, one more inclined to having good relations with the US and UK, to embark on a road of progress for its people – a road not washed out by ideology, paranoia, and a lust to maintain power at any cost.
However, just as when a democracy programme would be welcomed with open arms, LEAD will end. Thus, there will be a significant vacancy in programmes that seek to assist in the advancement of the National Assembly and enhance its ability to become more effective, productive, and responsive to the needs of the people.
There will be one less programme to provide capacity building and consultative advice to new MPs and to Cabinet ministers – many never having held such high office.
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